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Could the Zika virus be a cure for another deadly illness?

MOSQUITO,ZIKA
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This scary infection could someday be used to treat a dangerous disease in children.

Transmitted primarily through mosquito bites, the Zika virus was estimated in 2017 to be active in 50 countries and territories. Though many infected by the virus experience no symptoms, those who do are afflicted with fevers, joint pain, and rashes. In pregnant women, Zika can result in brain deformities for their newborns.

But now this frightening infection is being used for healing. Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil are discovering ways to utilize the virus’ deadly effect against brain cancer. “There’s a major effort to study viruses for their potential in treating illness,” Oswaldo K. Okamoto, a researcher at USP, told Bloomberg. Researchers are testing whether the detrimental effects the virus has on brain tissue can be used to eliminate cancerous tissue from the brain, and so far they’re finding success.

When the team infected cancerous cells with the virus, the virus attacked the cancerous cells almost exclusively, leaving most of the healthy tissue largely unaffected. This proved true again when tested on mice carrying human tumor cells.

The most optimistic news, though, is that the Zika virus is proving to be effective in treating some of the most dangerous types of tumors found in children diagnosed with brain cancer. Okamoto confirmed that in children brain cancer is often resistant to mainstream treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, leaving many survivors with neurological damage. But this new unlikely treatment might offer hope.

Though the treatment is still far from implementation, the new research is promising, and this deadly virus could someday be a blessing for many.

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